What we learned: It was 4-1
“We just got sick of losing,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said following the Bruins’ 3-1 win over the Blues on Feb. 1 — two nights after the Ducks snapped Boston’s 18-game point streak.
Well, that clever quote is a microcosm of the B’s 2017-18 campaign. Very rarely have they ever been run out of the building, let alone losing two games in a row.
Both appeared to be the case Tuesday night against a desperate Carolina Hurricanes squad. Despite Brad Marchand notching his third straight 30-goal campaign with his late first-period tally, the Hurricanes, one night removed from a 6-3 setback against the Rangers in New York, were relentless on the attack in the middle 20, outshooting the Black and Gold 18-6 and taking a 3-1 lead into the locker room.
Brock McGinn extended the lead to 4-1 with a shorthanded tally 2:10 into the third. Jake DeBrusk, Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara all left the game shortly after with apparent injuries. Just two days removed from their 3-1 setback in Chicago, the Bruins appeared on their way to their second straight loss for just the third time in the last four months.
No one saw what was coming next.
Here is what we learned following the five-goal third — highlighted by David Pastrnak’s first career hat trick — that sparked the ‘Cardiac Bruins’ to a highly improbable 6-4 triumph over the Hurricanes.
Youngsters show they are mature beyond their years
David Pastrnak is just 21 years old, yet he’s been in the Bruins system for four seasons. While he may not have the veteran label just yet, his maturity at a young age is a major compliment to his offensive talent and a reason why he’s inserted himself as an important member of the Bruins core.
From overtime winners to shootout clinchers, Pastrnak has shown the ability to deliver in the clutch. But Tuesday night, he took his game and maturity to another level with his three-goal third period.
In a 7:26 span, Pastrnak put the Bruins within one with nine minutes left in regulation and finished off the comeback with his go-ahead tally at 16:30 and empty-netter at 18:26. Those three tallies put him at 27 goals on the year, tying him for second on the team with the injured Patrice Bergeron.
“It was a really tough game for us,” Pastrnak told NESN’s Alex Kraemer postgame. “We didn’t play close enough to what we can and then we felt kind of tired and everything and then one goal by Gryz [Matt Grzelcyk] turns everything [around] and it shows how good of a team that we are.”
The Grzelcyk goal that Pastrnak mentioned put the Bruins within one at 4-2 at the 10:04 mark of the final 20. Without Krug and Chara, the former Boston University captain and Charlestown native took it upon himself to complete an odd-man rush and kickstart the B’s comeback.
Fellow rookie Danton Heinen added to the night of improbable by breaking his eight-game point drought at a perfect time; tipping home a brilliant feed from David Krejci to even things up at 4-4 just 21 seconds after Pastrnak’s first of the night.
“This team doesn’t surprise me. They can score goals,” Cassidy said during his postgame interview session with Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley. “It looked like it wasn’t going to be our night after the second period, which let’s face it, was probably our worst period of the year.”
Speaking of that middle 20…
Tuukka Rask keeps the Bruins in it
— NESN (@NESN) March 14, 2018
Somehow, Rask is one of the more polarizing members on the Bruins. If he gives up a soft goal, he’s often thrown under the bus on sports radio. Then crickets come when he’s playing inspiring hockey, much like he was from late November until right around February.
Yes, Rask has allowed some tough goals in his recent five-game stretch. Tuesday night was no exception as he gave up a pair of power-play tallies from Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravinen (5-on-3) and allowed Justin Williams to bank home a rebound on a puck that Rask covers up 99 percent of the time. Yet, he is a perfect 5-0 in that span despite allowing four goals on three occasions.
At a time where the B’s weren’t at their best, they needed their goaltender to stay sharp and he undoubtedly was their top performer in an otherwise second period to forget. It wasn’t pretty, but his 15 saves in the middle stanza kept the Bruins in it.
Did the comeback come at a cost?
Working with a short bench in a three-goal deficit is what makes this exhilarating comeback even more remarkable.
Despite taking the next shift after a first-period collision with the boards, DeBrusk left the game in the third period. Krug and Chara joined the rookie shortly after. Cassidy did not provide an update on the trio’s status in his postgame press conference with the Boston media.
“Those are three really good players for us,” Grzelcyk told reporters, “but it was huge for us to kind of show that [resiliency] and it’s something going forward.”
Come Thursday in South Florida, the Bruins may be without the aforementioned trio along with their top center in Patrice Bergeron and top right shot defenseman in Charlie McAvoy, who are both nursing separate lower-body injuries.
Regardless of Cassidy’s lineup, Tuesday proved that the Bruins are highly capable of overcoming adversity. That can only be a good thing come mid-April.